Lady Rowena Kinnaird may be the heiress to a Highland earldom, but she has never felt good enough–not for her father, not for the man she thought she’d marry, not for God. But after a shocking attack, she’s willing to be forever an outcast if it means escaping Loch Morar.
Brice Myerston, the Duke of Nottingham, has found himself in possession of a rare treasure his enemies are prepared to kill for. While Brice has never been one to shy away from manor-born ladies, the last thing he needs is the distraction of Lady Rowena, who finds herself in a desperate situation. But when Rowena’s father tries to trap Brice into marrying his daughter, Brice makes a surprising decision.
Rowena wanted to escape the Highlands, but she’s reluctant to marry a notorious flirt. And when she learns that Brice is mixed up in questionable business with a stolen treasure, she fears she’s about to end up directly in the path of everything she was trying to avoid.
With a growl, Malcolm lunged forward, clamping his hand around her arm and tugging.
She tried to resist, to pull away, to tuck herself to the duke’s side. But Malcolm had anticipated her reaction and pulled hard. Then his hand was on her hip and his chest was before her eyes and his musk was overwhelming her and the stones were biting her back again and the pain – the pain clouded her vision, obliterated everything, and she could only beg again, “No, no, no!”
The room – this room – came rushing back as her father hauled Malcolm a step away, as Nottingham caught her up again, as the women all rushed forward, the duchess shouting something about her ankle.
Her ankle – its throb was so much less now, with that other agony again in her mind.
Malcolm struggled against her father.
The duke glowered with the ferocity of a winter storm. “Don’t. Touch. Her. Again.”
The brute snarled. “Stay out of it, Sassenach. Ye canna stand between us forever.”
The tremors gripped her fast and hard and would have sent her to her knees had Nottingham not held her upright. He stroked his thumb in a circle obviously meant to soothe. And which, oddly, it did. A little.
“Yes,” he said, his voice low and tight. “I can. And I will.”
Malcolm strained against Father’s hands. “What’ll ye do? Take her south, hide her away? I’ll find her. She’s mine, and I’ll find her as surely in England as in my own glen.”
Nottingham smiled. “And what good will that do you, when she’s the Duchess of Nottingham?”
The world stilled. Every breath caught. Rowena couldn’t even think of breathing, not when he looked down into her eyes and she saw the soft light in his. The promise. The offer of that thing she craved most – escape. Quietly, he added, “If you’ll have me, Rowena.”
Her name sounded different, somehow, on his lips without that cushioning Lady before it – and punctuated, as it was, with the Gaelic curses that Malcolm spat. The brute roared, fought against Father’s arms.
Rowena pressed closer to Nottingham’s side and whispered the only word that would come. “Aye.”
The short take
This book has just earned a place as one of my all-time favourite historical romances. It is beautifully written and richly characterized. Just allow yourself to become immersed in the story and be prepared to totally fall in love with the hero!
I soooo did not want this book to end. It has earned a place as one of my all-time favourite historical romances – for the writing, the plot, the characters, and because it was so much more than just a romance. It really deserves to be called a ‘love story’, because when Brice Myerston offers marriage to Rowena Kinnaird in order to protect her, he commits to loving his wife by his actions and trusting that his heart will catch on in time. But the overall plot is actually much more complex than this; a rich layering of circumstances that threaten their physical safety and test and refine their commitment to love and trust one another.
Brice Myerston has also earned a place as one of my all-time favourite fictional heroes. He is quite charming, in that understated British way, but beneath his seemingly flirtatious manner, he earnestly seeks to follow God’s prompting in his life; even if he doesn’t always understand what the plan is. The way God leads him by impressing something insistently on his heart – like ‘pay attention’ ‘stay’ ‘protect her’ ‘go’ – is one of the most authentic depictions of God’s day to day prompting that I have come across in fiction.
It is in obedience to two such impressions that he (a) currently has the Fire Eyes in his possession (continuing on from the previous book in the series), and (b) finds himself offering marriage to Lady Rowena Kinnaird, despite his resentment at the trickery intended to force his hand. His determination to love his wife is only strengthened when he realises just how deep her emotional scars run, but it would be much easier to focus on loving her if he didn’t have the little matter of the Fire Eyes hanging over his head.
Rowena may have wished to escape her home and the abuse she has suffered, but that doesn’t mean that she’s ready to be a Duchess. Years of emotional and physical abuse are not easily erased and, while she feels safe enough with Brice in public, her memories all too easily overwhelm reality when they are in private. They also shape her insecurities in her new position, and when she strikes up a friendship with Lady Catherine Pratt, despite Brice’s warning, additional seeds of discord take root, causing her to doubt Brice’s regard for her and fear the curse associated with the Fire Eyes.
But her determinedly patient and tender husband proves himself worthy of her trust when it matters most, and she becomes equally determined to overcome her memories, one step at a time, and be the wife he deserves. The trouble is, neither of them realize the lengths some people will go to get what they want, and the Fire Eyes aren’t the only target.
I loved the way Brice and Rowena confronted the misunderstandings, challenges, and threats that confronted them rather than ignoring them; they grew together through them rather than letting them drive them apart. This was in large part due to Brice’s initial willingness to examine his own actions objectively and obey the Lord’s prompting when every instinct was to do the opposite, and made for some of the most memorable and beautiful scenes I have read. More than any hero I have ever come across, he really does model Christ’s sacrificial love for His bride.
This novel is the second in the series, and although it can be read as a stand alone, the story related to the Fire Eyes begins in the first novel in the series. Needless to say, I am also looking forward to the conclusion of the series, releasing in September 2016.
This one has gone straight to the pool room!
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 5 April 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Author’s website: http://www.roseannawhite.com/wordpress/